This optical illusion is an example of an ambiguous or multi-stable perception illusion. These illusions are cleverly designed to offer two or more distinct interpretations, which can flip back and forth in your perception.
In this case, the image can be interpreted in two ways: either as a massive elephant marching forward, or as two trees with intricate, twisting branches. The illusion uses shared lines, shapes, and shadows to create both interpretations. When you look at the image, your brain might initially perceive the image as an elephant. However, if you shift your focus, the image appears to be two trees.
The lines that form the elephant’s trunk and legs, for example, can also be seen as the twisting branches and trunks of the trees. Similarly, the body of the elephant can be perceived as the space between the two trees.
What’s fascinating about these illusions is how they highlight the brain’s role in visual perception. Your brain actively constructs and interprets the visual information it receives, and it can switch between different interpretations based on cues within the image. The experience can even be influenced by your expectations, past experiences, and the context in which you’re viewing the image.
These illusions underline the flexibility and complexity of our visual perception, reminding us that what we see is not just a straightforward representation of the world, but a mental construction formed by our brain.